Movie Monday: The Music of Strangers

There are almost 90 movie screens within a 15-minute drive of my current location. There are many opportunities to see the 13th Star Trek movie, the seventh Ice Age movie or any number of movies involving people using weapons to kill other people or imaginary foes.

Or, on one screen, you can see “The Music of Strangers.”

This is the film that I recommend.

The movie is an HBO documentary on The Silk Road Project, a group of musicians from various cultures who have been meeting and performing together since 2000. The inspiration seems to have occurred first to cellist Yo-yo Ma, an American treasure who was born in Paris to Chinese parents.

There have been many virtuosic cellists (Pablo Casals and Jacqueline du Pre in the 20th century, for starters) but few who have coaxed as much emotion out of the instrument or who have promoted music education and international music with the energy Ma has brought to these projects.

This movie isn’t a typical road-trip saga but joint performances of great joy, and sometimes sorrow, interwoven with the personal stories of several Silk Road musicians. Some of their lives have been difficult, but the artists find meaning and comfort in their music.

The message is simple: Music touches us in a more deeply human way than speech. Its effects cross oceans and national borders. It endures.

In a year marked by refugee crises, mass killings and dismal presidential campaigns, these truths are worth keeping in mind.

As one member of the ensemble remarks toward the end, “Nobody remembers who was the king when Beethoven was alive.”

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